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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween to Remember

A Halloween to Remember

This story may or may not be true…is it a trick? A treat? Both? Neither? You decide…or maybe you’ll never know because you’ve entered the ‘fiction zone……”

I received her reminder exactly a week before Halloween:  Am I still taking the kids trick or treating Halloween night?
I had nearly forgotten I had promised her. I didn’t particularly care for Halloween and was happy to have someone else endure the evening of begging door to door for candy, so I responded: Sure, if you’re willing to take them, they’re all yours. Just don’t let them eat the candy.
Having been our family babysitter for years, she expected that sort of reply and meant the following literally: LOL
I knew she would let them eat some of the candy, and she knew that I would be fine with a little candy as long as it was done in moderation and some of the Tootsie Rolls would be saved for me.
We made arrangements to meet at the local college so she could pick up another friend as well as the children and head out for an evening of fun and adventure. I packed up the children (in their costumes) and reminded them to say please and thank you, wear their hats and gloves, be polite, use their hands for helping and their mouths for saying nice things. They promised to behave, and we agreed to meet up in a little over two hours at Starbucks. I had packed a book in my bag and was looking forward to a quiet evening at Starbucks.
I sent out an open invitation to friends and family to stop and visit with me while I relaxed at Starbucks. Debi took me up on the offer and we chatted the night away. It was ½ hour before the children would be back and my phone began to vibrate. I excused myself from the conversation explaining that it was the friend who had the children so I’d better take the call.
“Hello. How are you guys doing?”
“We are done, but you better come get the kids. My keys are locked in my trunk and we are at the park at the corner of Lincoln and 86th Street.”
“Oh gosh, did you call the police?”
“No. My parents would be really upset if I did that. A friend is on the way to try and help.”
“OK – I’ll leave here right away.”
I got to the park to find Lydia (the young lady who babysits and had taken the children), my two toddlers, and a woman dressed like a nun. They were all standing around Lydia’s car and the children were discussing their treasures and treats. The adults were not wearing costumes, it turned out that the woman in the nun outfit was indeed a nun. She and the children joined me in my warm sport utility vehicle while Lydia waited for her friend, Eric to arrive to try and release the door lock.
Eric arrived and worked tirelessly on the lock for nearly an hour. I didn’t want to leave Lydia and the children’s car seats were in her back seat, so I had a good reason to hang around and wait for a solution to the dilemma. Sister and I also tried to help in various ways by holding the flashlight, using the hanger to try and catch the lock, etc…and after another hour had gone by, I asked again if I could call the police for help. Lydia agreed.
I provided the police with all of my information as if I had locked my keys in the vehicle. They asked if the vehicle belonged to me. At first I said yes, but then I quickly explained it wasn’t exactly my vehicle. Lydia was relieved when they didn’t ask for her information and said under the circumstances, they would only need my name, address, phone number, and date of birth. She was hoping her parents would not find out about the incident.
It took the officer a few minutes to release the latch and we were all on our way. The children thanked him and he was clearly the hero of the evening. I promised Sister I would never forget her because there weren’t too many nuns who I had broken into cars with. I commended Lydia on keeping her cool and her ability to laugh in even the most uncomfortable situations, and we thanked Eric for his tireless efforts – he seemed like a great friend for Lydia.
There’s that saying about life – something to the extent of: “life is not about the destination, it’s about the ride” and I can certainly say that tonight was a ride worth remembering. Things don’t have to go as planned to be fabulous, fun, and memorable. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more exciting Halloween (and I can tell you that even a nun may say damn every now and again…but shhhhh….that’s just between you and me).
May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and memorable moments with friends! ~Crystal

Monday, October 22, 2012

She Smiled Despite Herself - Flash Fiction

Sylvia stretched and blinked. Her vision cleared. She yawned. The rain tapped gently on the window and she could hear the leaves rustling across the deck. Fall had once been her favorite time of year. This year it didn’t have quite the allure it did in the past. There were leaves to rake, pumpkins to carve, and pies to bake…but there would be no laughter. She was officially an "empty nester". She tugged the duvet, tucked it under her chin, and closed her eyes. She wasn’t eager to start her day. If she weren’t self-employed, Sylvia would call in sick today.

“Almost Paradise” blaring from her alarm finally roused her. Sylvia figured she had better get out of bed, or she might be considered lazy. Not that anyone would know, but she still heard the judgmental words of her mother… “Only lazy and dying people sleep past eight in the morning young lady.” She rolled over, turned off the alarm and grabbed her phone. 7:55am – time to hit the pavement. She threw on her favorite purple track suit and her queued up her favorite playlist on her ipod knowing Stevie Nicks would come on first. She laced up her running shoes. The rain didn’t stop her, she wanted to run far and fast to find something she couldn’t quite describe or define.

Her first client was due to arrive at eleven. She would have plenty of time to run a little further. She hit the shuffle button on her iPod and let her mind wander as Stevie sang about landslides and David Gray drew the line. She hadn’t been paying attention to time or place until she looked up and saw a home she had never noticed before. It wasn’t large, it wasn’t spectacular, but it caught Sylvia’s attention so much that she tripped on the uneven pavement. She lost her balance and tumbled onto the tall wet grass and collapsed in a heap of purple. The blood was tricking from her knee, and her elbow hurt, but otherwise nothing but her pride had been injured. She was grateful for the cool weather as it kept any onlookers safe in their warm homes. She picked herself up, still mesmerized by the lovely robin’s egg blue home with the big porch and unique pillars.
“Are you okay Miss?” said a booming voice. Once again Sylvia was thrown off guard. Where did this man come from? She saw his shoes first, and her eyes scanned upward to take in his large frame. He was in no way chubby, she would describe him as athletic in the way a football player is athletic. She was speechless as she took him in. He asked again “are you okay?”

“Um…yes…I suppose so. Thank you.”

“Here, let me help” he said as he gently wiped something off her forehead “looks like you’ve got some mud here.”

“Thank you. I’m fine though sir.”

“Please Miss, call me Gabe.”

“Thank you Gabe, I really should be going. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“It was no bother. May I ask your name?”

“Sorry for being rude. I’m Sylvia. Sylvia Slattery from Slattery Publishing, just down the road.”

“Sylvia, what a pretty name. Just down the road, huh?” he said laughing.

She was put off by his apparent mocking of her. “What is so funny Gabe?”

“Nothing is funny, but do you realize you are more than ten miles from home Miss Slattery?”

She hadn’t realized she had run so far, but she wouldn’t let on. “I may be an author and publisher by trade Gabe, but I am not daft when it comes to directions. Thank you for the geography lesson.” She shot him a cold glare as she turned to leave.

He was mumbling some sort of apology. She turned up her Ipod and just kept going. How could such a snarky man live in such a lovely home? Even more perplexing was the question of how such a snarky man could be so attractive. As she ran home, she couldn’t help but think about who Gabe was. Of course she wasn’t interested in him but she couldn’t shake him from her mind. This wasn’t exactly how she thought the day was going to go. Her mind wandered, and a few blocks from home she realized the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and Jackson Browne was singing “In The Shape of a Heart”. She smiled despite herself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where's Your Happy Place?

Well, hello there! I missed you!

I've been busy cleaning and packing and cleaning some more. The last few weeks have been crazy (in a good way) and I haven't found much time to touch base with anyone. I did tell my husband that the next time we move, I'll need a good tranquilizer or a case of wine about a week in advance, and just keep me 'on cloud nine' until everything is cleaned and organized and all the final papers have been signed. I enjoy moving believe it or not. This will be my 28th address in only 18 years, so I am no stranger to boxes, bins, tissue paper, bubble wrap, newspapers, and duct tape. However, this is the most stressful move to date.

Of course I put the stress on myself, I know that...but moving with school age children is totally different than a single girl packing up throughout the night, loading up her hatchback, and taking up residence in a cozy new apartment. These children seem to unpack faster than I pack, dirty faster than I clean, and for some reason they are always hungry, tired, or in need of attention. I say sarcastically "I didn't think I had to do anything after the labor and delivery - this life is a lemon and I want my money back"

Kidding aside, you have to maintain some sense of normalcy when you have children and others are involved in the moving process. Bedtimes need to be maintained, meals need to be provided, bathing is a must, and you need to be able to locate the favorite stuffed animal and night light at a moments notice to save a pre-bedtime temper tantrum and melt down.

If I had all the money in the world I would have hired someone else to do the moving and the cleaning, but alas...I do not have all the money in the world (in fact I don't have much more than a handful of change in the bottom of my bag at this moment). What I like about doing it myself is how familiar you feel with the home - the building itself. It gives you time to bond with your new home and time to say goodbye to your old home. As you pledge the floor boards of your daughters new room, you think lovingly about the hours she will enjoy playing dolls on the floor, of the future years with boy band posters on the walls, and a pack of cigarettes tucked in the back of her underwear drawer. As you clean the old house, you think about the new owners and the life they will create, and you want to make sure the house is clean so they can sit back and enjoy it as much as you did when it was yours.

All in all, at the end of the day, I'm a bit stressed and short with people I love. I'm not the person I want to be and thank heavens this is only temporary. The 'on the cusp' feeling got me to thinking about what I would do if I had a few hours to myself tomorrow. I asked myself "Crystal, what would you like to do to get your happy back?" and I started creating a mental list. This list got me to thinking...wouldn't it be nice to have my own 'owner's manual'? A list of things I enjoy, with a price, and time listed on it? A list that I could create on a good day, instead of waiting until I'm at my wits end and the only thing that interests me is sleeping or indulging in an entire bottle of wine.

I think this is a great idea, a reference book that I can use, but also something my husband could take a peak at if he was looking for ideas to make me smile. Here's a sample of what a list might look like:

1) Kiss from my husband    priceless   lingering
2) Massage       $50         1 hour
3) Journal and Pen Set    $10    
4) Vanilla Latte  $5           1 hour
5) Trip to the Kohler Design Center     (free)        4 hours
6) Lunch with a friend         $30                   3 hours
7) Walk in the park with the children     (free)      2 hours
8) Playing the piano    (free)     15 minutes
9) a nap    (free)                45 minutes


And the lesson here is - figure out where your happy place is. You don't have to make a list, a binder, or an owner's don't even have to write it down. Just think about the things that make you happy, and when you find yourself going down the path to grouchland, toss in some happy things to get you back on track. You'll thank yourself, and so will the people around you!

<3 Muwah!

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine and happy people, places, and things!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I remember thinking that I just needed a little more green paint. That was right before I felt the tingle at the base of my spine. It felt like someone was watching me as I painted. I turned to check my surroundings and nearly tripped over a very large man with gorgeous green eyes. He was attractive, but I was annoyed and gave him a look to tell him as much. He smiled and gave me a nod before walking away.

I had been commissioned to paint a mermaid on a yacht. I had done that, and more…I created a topless mermaid with black hair, hazel eyes, full breasts, and a tail that reminded me of the ocean. She was a permanent resident of the vessel they called Obsession; the yacht was a 300 some foot Lurssen whose owners were paying me a handsome sum to paint her. I didn’t ask questions. After the first ten hour day working on her, I decided to give her a name. I called her Claire Aslin meaning bright future. Claire and I shared many moments together during the three weeks it took me to get to this point. It may sound odd, but I talked to her in the same way some people talk to their pets. I explained that I like my coffee with plenty of cream, and that I missed my ex and was sick of men.

Painting, like any art, is a sort of outpouring of self and since I was given very little direction with this project, Claire was my own creation. My hair was limp and dull, hers was shiny and full of bounce and life. I was built like a boy, she had an ample bosom.  I appreciated her in a way that a mother might adore her own daughter and made her the way I looked in my dreams. I gave her a quick wink as I packed up my supplies and promised that I’d be back in the morning. As I closed my locker door I was startled by the same green eyes from before. This time, he didn’t leave after I gave him a look of disgust, so I asked “can I help you?”

“No thank you” said a booming voice with a delightful accent that I couldn’t quite place. I was quickly trying to assess if he was British or Australian.

I thought he would have walked away; he stood there looking at me and I clearly was not going to win the staring competition.  I turned to walk away.

“You know Val, you’re a lot prettier than she is.”

He walked away. 

Who does that? (I thought to myself) Who just says something like that and walks away? I bet he’s a sociopath. I grabbed my duffel bag and headed home. I couldn’t help but wonder who he was and what his story was. I had plenty of guy friends, but no one had really hit on me since Josh and I split up. Most of my friends called me a tom-boy and I guess I wasn’t super approachable to most guys. This guy was the exception to the rule apparently.

“You know who that is, right?” said the tall slender blonde cleaning the storage area near my locker.

“Are you talking to me?” I asked (she had never spoken a word to me and suddenly I existed…I would have preferred to kick her as to talk to her).

“Yes, you” she said with an eye roll and some sort of rude body language. “That’s Paul Tucker. Famous chef with the restaurants and the tv show. You truly are daft.”




The blonde bitch turned and walked away. Call me daft, but whoever this guy was or wasn’t – I didn’t care. The Obsession and my beautiful Claire were set to sail in a few days and I would never seem him, or them again. In three short days, I became the object of his affection. The details of our courtship were as delightful as a seven course meal with double dessert. Now I live part of the year in the South of France, part in Las Angeles, sleeping on luxury linens with staff folding my intimates. Who would have thought that a poor girl from a Midwestern town would have found true love. I didn’t care about his money and he didn’t care about my past and that seems to be a recipe for eternal bliss and dreams come true.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Power of Words

What can you give that you can never take back? Of course, it's our words. We choose them carefully because we all know that we can say I'm sorry, but we can never take back the words we've said or change the impact they've had on others. We can choose to give a compliment or an insult. We can choose to lift someone up, or knock them down. The list goes on and on. None of this is profound, new, or should come as a surprise to any of us.

What I do find profoundly interesting is something said by a friend recently. She said something to the effect of:

Words are really powerful - God used them to create everything we know...even mankind.

Wow! That explains it, doesn't it?

I've been been thinking about this for weeks and if God used words in our creation, they are really the most powerful things we have. They are more powerful than nuclear weapons and guns in the sense that they can both create and destroy instead of just having the ability to destroy.

When you think about it this way, it really is a big responsibility. Makes me think I should talk less and think more...choose my words more carefully...make sure I'm using them as gifts instead of weapons.

That's all - random thoughts to ponder. If you don't buy into Christianity, this post may not appeal to you. I thought about that as I don't want to alienate anyone - so for you, the lesson may just be that lifting others up is the right thing to do since it makes the universe happy and it's a way to pay it forward...not sure, you tell me?

May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and words that are chosen carefully to provide joy and happiness!

I Get It

Chilly Friday afternoons in Wisconsin seem to bring out my imagination - so here's a little flash fiction to start your weekend off. Enjoy - and may your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, sunshine, and friends who understand you. ~Crystal

I Get It

“I get it Michael; I’ll see you in a few days.” I grumbled into the phone before slamming it down on the desk. The husband with the growing empire, I get it…he had a business to run and things that needed his attention in Florida. In the meantime, here I am, stuck in Wisconsin’s Northwood’s for another weekend alone. Good thing he bought me a nice house on the lake and a boat so I could enjoy myself with absolutely no one to talk to for days at a time. I slammed my coffee cup on the counter and rolled my eyes as the tears streamed down my cheeks. Good thing we are three hours away from my friends and family.

I decided to take a walk. We really did have a beautiful home, and I really liked Rhinelander. I thought about all the positives as I walked down the long winding gravel driveway kicking at the fall leaves as I went. I had everything most girls dreamed about. I had a handsome husband who was successful, a home on a pristine lake, and if you didn’t know me you’d think I was spoiled. Michael made sure that I had every material thing a girl could ask for. Massages, manicures, pedicures, a lovely sports car, and I could spend as much money as I wanted. I carried a check book and a debit card that his manager balanced. I never seemed to run out of money. My bookshelves were over flowing, I took a weekly pottery class, and I could write out charitable donations without a second thought about our budget or keeping the lights on. When I was sad, he took me on vacation, bought me new shoes, jewelry, or whatever the latest trend was.

I was kicking myself harder than I was kicking those leaves. I thought ‘Bianca, how can you be unhappy? You have no right to be unhappy.’ I was unhappy because he just didn’t understand me. He was once my best friend and now he thought all these THINGS would make me happy. I had never been about things and I felt betrayed because he didn’t know me anymore. I smiled at the memory of a time when he had…a time when I believed in so many things:

“Justin is a lucky man. Do you remember meeting me?” said the tall blonde with the blue eyes standing across the counter from me.

“I know you look familiar, are you a friend of Justin’s?” I asked as I studied his broad shoulders and admired his dimples as he smiled.

“We graduated together. I think I met the two of you at a picnic. You’re engaged to Justin Krueger, right?”

“Well…we were…” The smile fading from my lips as I held up the hand where my enormous diamond previously sat.  

“I’m really sorry Bianca. Please don’t look so sad. I didn’t mean to upset you.” He said tenderly as he reached across the counter to touch my hand gently.

“I’m okay,” I lied. “it’s, it’s, it’s not your fault.”

“If you need to talk, let me know. Here’s my card and I wrote my cell phone on the back, okay?”

I nodded. I was afraid that if I spoke I would cry and since I was at work and he was a customer, that’s the last thing I needed. I put the card in my sweater pocket and watched him walk away. What a nice guy, I thought to myself.

A few days went by and I picked up the phone and dialed his number.





“Do you need to talk?” He asked and I was relieved that I didn’t have to explain myself.


“Can I pick you up at the dealership at 5?”


I can’t imagine what he is thinking. I’m calling him to talk and I could hardly say a thing on the phone. What a mess…

At 4:58 he walked into the service department at the dealership with a vanilla latte, a pink carnation, and a big smile. He walked right up to me and said “You’re too beautiful to be this sad, do you know that?”

Before I could answer, he had grabbed my hand and we were headed to the parking lot. He apologized for picking me up in a work van and explained it was this or his parents van with shag carpeting. His truck was in the shop, but he couldn’t bear to say no when I called. We laughed as I assured him that I wasn’t the kind of girl that cared about what type of vehicle he drove or how much money he made. He said he appreciated how down to earth I was and we spent hours concentrating on nothing but one another as we enjoyed a meal, dessert, more coffee, and a ridiculous amount of laughter and smiles.

The next day, two dozen roses arrived at work with a note that read: To the most amazing and beautiful woman I have ever met.

I found out later that he had confided in a friend saying “this is the girl I’m going to marry”. He hadn’t even kissed me, but after one night of conversation he already had made up his mind that I would be his wife. I had been flattered when he revealed this to me…not realizing then that I was just another acquisition, not all that different than the properties or businesses he bought and sold. With stars in my eyes, I thought ‘he’s going to love me forever, I get my happily ever after – I really get it!’

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Keep Your Head Crystal

If (by Rudyard Kipling)
If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream  - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat these two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!